Make the Most Out of Your Sun Salutation

Inside: Did you know that the “inhale your arms up” part of Sun Salutations is an actual yoga pose, and it’s called Urdhva Hastasana? I’m embarrassed to say that I just recently found out.

urdhva hastasanaI had no idea how badly I was cheating my body. I should have known better. But the lazy side of me really loved the opportunity to give my constantly-working abdominal muscles a break.

For years, I practiced Sun Salutations without Urdhva Hastasana. Ground down in Tadasana, then completely abandon all the core energy I’ve been creating to float my arms up like a fairy. Try to miraculously reconnect with my abdominals (Ha! Good luck, they tell me) to forward fold into Uttanasana.

Not only was I cheating myself of an opportunity, I was making my yoga practice much harder than it needed to be. You see, many people (like myself) may not realize that the inhale your arms up part is an actual yoga pose. It’s called Urdhva Hastasana, and it stretches your spine and creates space between your rib cage and pelvis.

And remember, any time we stretch the area between the ribs and the pelvis, we will probably stretch the psoas muscle, a major culprit for back and hip pain. Here’s how to practice this frequently glossed-over pose.

Urdhva Hastasana

  1. It all begins with a solid Tadasana. Ground down through your feet. Feel your feet press the floor away and, as you do, feel energy travel up through your spine and out the top of your head. Rotate open at the shoulders and turn your palms forward. Send energy through your fingertips.
  2. Inhale and reach your arms toward the ceiling. Make sure that you end with your palms facing each other shoulder-width apart or closer.
  3. As you inhale and move your arms, you’re not just moving from the shoulders; you’re also reaching your ribs away from your pelvis. Try to reach and create extra space between your ribs and hips.
  4. Draw your belly button toward your spine.
  5. Look up at your hands.
  6. You can hold here and breathe for several breaths. Or, it’s very common to use this pose as a transition into Uttanasana.

Urdhva Hastasana Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

Do you use Urdhva Hastasana to transition into any other poses? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.